Archive for the ‘General’ Category

How Tax Reform Could Grow our Economy and Create Jobs

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Over 150 countries in the world have shifted a significant portion of their tax mix to border adjustable consumption taxes – value added taxes (VATs) or goods and services taxes (GSTs).  Consumption taxes are “border adjustable taxes” and allowed under World Trade Organization rules. Consumption taxes are a tax on consumption – as opposed to income, wealth, property, or wages. Consumption taxes are called goods and services taxes in Canada, Australia, New Zealand or value added taxes in other countries.  They are usually a tax only on the incremental value that is added at each level of the supply chain to a product, material or service. Most countries VATs or GSTs are tariff and subsidy replacements, mimicking a currency devaluation if a country raises the VAT or GST and uses proceeds to lower purely domestic taxes and costs.

After 40 years of multilateral tariff reduction, other countries replaced tariffs with VATs but the U.S. did not. American export­ers face nearly the same border taxes (tariffs + consumption tax) as they did in the early 1970s. Foreign VATs are export subsidies as they are rebated to companies that export their goods. For example:

  • Mexico established a 15% VAT after NAFTA
  • Central American countries established a 12% VAT after CAFTA
  • Germany raised its VAT to 19% in 2007 to fund business tax reduction for trade competitiveness

The rates range from 12% to 24% and average 17% globally. This means that virtually all foreign countries tax our exports at 17% on top of tariffs. They subsidize do­mestic shipments abroad with the average 17% tax rebate. The figure below illustrates how it works.

U.S. Local Price = $100

 

China Local Price = $100

 

U.S. Price PLUS 17% VAT = $117.00

 

Chinese Price MINUS 17% VAT rebate = $85.47

 

The map below shows which nations have consumption taxes (red) and which do not (blue).

 

Because foreign consumption taxes are border adjustable, companies that export are double taxed. They pay U. S. taxes and the foreign border tax.  Importers can sell cheaper products because they receive a consumption tax rebate from their home country and do not pay U. S. VAT.

Eliminate Payroll Tax Burden with the most efficient VAT in world

In written testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives on May 18, 2017, the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) recommended “a new border adjustable consumption tax (Goods and Services Tax) that funds a full credit against all payroll taxes.”

Highlights from the testimony paraphrased or quoted include: “A new U.S. goods and services tax (GST) of approximately 12% should be enacted to shift taxation to consumption using the credit/invoice method. The proceeds should be credited against payroll taxes paid by all workers and businesses. GST proceeds should be applied as a full credit against the 15.3% rate of payroll taxes to reduce the cost of labor in the US while increasing after tax wages.

Exported goods and services would receive a full rebate. Imports would pay the GST. Small business with less than, for example, one million dollars could be exempted without sacrificing significant tax revenue.”

CPA’s written testimony explained, “Domestic prices vs. wages would not worsen because the payroll tax is embedded in the cost of all goods and services. Thus, eliminating the payroll tax lowers the prices for goods and services or increases wages depending upon the particular competitive forces in each product sector. A GST raises goods and services prices, but the GST/payroll tax combination would largely cancel each other out thereby holding the domestic economy harmless.

The more modern GSTs implemented by free market economies are in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The compliance and administration burdens are relatively low in comparison to other taxation methods. The U. S. can learn from those and other countries’ experiences to implement the most modern, streamlined GST in the world.”

In summary, the proposed GST would

  • Reduce the cost of labor in the U. S.
  • Give every worker a raise
  • Lower price of U/ S. exports
  • Levy a tax on imports

The following are some of the benefits of a payroll tax credit for manufacturers, ranchers, and farmers:

  • Regressiveness of VAT offset by elimination of regressive payroll tax
  • VAT costs on all domestic producers are offset
  • No impact on prices of domestic goods/services
  • Imported goods/services prices increase
  • Cost of production for exports reduced

Change to a Sales Factor Apportionment (SFA) Border Adjustable Profit Tax

 Last year, I wrote an article about corporate tax reform at the federal level based on the Sales Factor Apportionment Framework proposed by one of the members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, Bill Parks. Mr. Parks is a retired finance professor and founder of NRS Inc., an Idaho-based paddle sports accessory maker. He asserted that “Tax reform proposals won’t fix our broken corporate system… [because] they fail to fix the unfairness of domestic companies paying more tax than multinational enterprises in identical circumstances.”

He explained that multinational enterprises (MNEs) can use cost accounting practices to transfer costs and profits within the company to achieve different goals. “Currently MNEs manipulate loopholes in our tax system to avoid paying U. S. taxes… MNEs can legitimately choose a cost that reduces or increases the profits of its subsidiaries in different countries. Because the United States is a relatively high-tax country, MNEs will choose the costs that minimize profits in the United States and maximize them in what are usually lower-tax countries.”

The way his plan would work is that the amount of corporate taxes that a multinational company would pay “would be determined solely on the percent of that company’s world-wide sales made to U. S. customers. Foreign MNEs would also be taxed the same way on their U. S. income leveling the playing field between domestic firms and foreign and domestic MNEs.”.

The Board of the Directors of the Coalition for a Prosperous America chose to support Sales Factor Tax Apportionment and included the following in their testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee:

“The US corporate tax system harms America’s trade competitiveness, overtaxes income from wages, under taxes consumption, and is bad at actually collecting what is owed. It also enables rampant base erosion through transferring profits to tax havens or countries with lower corporate tax rates. Full reform centered around destination based, border adjustment principles can result in an efficient, trade competitive, and largely tamper-proof tax system.

SFA is a destination based profit tax. Pretax income is allocated to the US in proportion to the percentage of a company’s total sales in the U. S. Pre-tax income earned outside the US is not taxed. Tax rates can be lowered substantially while still meeting revenue targets.”

The Coalition for a Prosperous America favors “a border adjustable business tax (for all entity types) which allocates pre-tax income based upon the destination of sales. Formulary apportionment based upon a single sales factor (sales factor apportionment or SFA) is well established at the state level. It solves most of the base erosion/profit shifting and tax haven abuse problems facing tax writing committees. SFA eliminates the disparate tax treatment between domestic companies (who pay the full income tax burden on worldwide income), multinationals (many of which shift profits to tax havens), and foreign companies (which pay a territorial income tax).

A broad based 12% GST could raise $1.4 trillion in new revenue. Payroll tax revenue in 2015 was 33% of total tax revenue at $1.056 trillion.”

CPA asserts that U. S. “trade competitiveness would be substantially improved because exports are freed from both the GST and payroll tax burden. Imports never include the cost of the U. S. payroll tax, but would pay the GST. This effect has been called Fiscal Devaluation because it mimics a currency devaluation for trade purposes. It only works if you combine a new GST with a ubiquitous domestic tax or cost reduction. The optimal domestic tax reduction is the payroll tax burden.”

The reason for CPA’s support is that “SFA taxes pre-tax income allocated to the U. S. but not profits allocated to foreign sales.  Domestic firms can legitimately ‘avoid’ taxation by exporting more. Profits from imports are subject to tax. Domestic, multinational and foreign firms are on an equal tax footing.

The current corporate tax system cannot be fixed because it allows the fiction of intra-firm transactions to erode the tax base.  Multinational companies use them to self-deal, strictly for tax purposes, shifting income to tax haven jurisdictions.  Companies sell products or services to themselves, governed only by an ‘arm’s length’ principle which allows them to create their own pricing terms subject to a nearly unenforceable ‘fair market value’ constraint.

The intra-company transactions are not free market, ‘arm’s length’ or true third-party transactions. The only economically meaningful ‘sale’ is one to a true third party outside the company.  As much of 30% of tax revenue may be lost from profit shifting to tax haven jurisdictions which have effective tax rates of 0-4%. These include Bermuda, Netherlands, UK Caribbean Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Switzerland.”

The CPA testimony provides the following example: “Assume a multinational corporation has worldwide sales of $100 billion, $50 billion sales in the U. S. and company-wide pretax income of $10 billion. Fifty percent of the profits, under SFA, are apportioned to the US.  So, the profits to be taxed in the USA in this case are $5 Billion.  Using a 20% corporate tax rate yields a SFA tax of $1 billion. Intra-company transactions with a Bermuda subsidiary would be irrelevant.

Merely lowering the U. S. corporate tax rate for example to 15% without further reform would not eliminate the tax competition with tax haven jurisdictions. SFA would make tax havens irrelevant because true sales to any foreign country would be ignored.  IRS litigation centered around the proper fair market value of intra-firm transactions would disappear. Only profits allocated to the US in proportion to true third-party sales would be taxable.”

CPA asserts that “SFA would allow a significant reduction in the business tax rate while collecting similar revenue because base erosion is largely fixed. By one estimate, a 13% corporate tax rate under SFA would collect the same revenue as the current system…”

In conclusion, CPA recommends, “The U. S. tax system should shift to more border adjustability through destination based taxation. If the House GOP Blueprint does not gain Senate or White House support, the Ways and Means Committee has solid alternatives to meet their goals. CPA supports enacting (1) a new GST to fund a full credit against payroll taxes, plus (2) a shift to sales factor apportionment of global profits as an alternative to our current corporate income tax system.”

We need to take bold action if we want to rebuild our manufacturing industry to create jobs and prosperity. As I visit district offices of our California Congressional delegation as chair of the California chapter of CPA, I am encouraged by the interest these recommendations for tax reform are generating on a bi-partisan basis.

 

Denver’s Project DIY Increases Knowledge of Advanced Manufacturing Careers

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

During the first week of summer, June 5 – 9, 2017, the Community College of Denver (CCD) Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) hosted their second week-long camp for high school girls, giving them the opportunity to learn hands on about advanced manufacturing, to include machining, welding, architecture, and engineering graphics/3D printing. The camp was sponsored by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Denver Public School’s CareerConnect, and the Soeurs de Coeur Fund.

CCD’s Advanced Manufacturing Center is a state-of-the-art 33,280-square-foot facility offering degree and certificate programs in machining and welding. CCD also offers continuing education courses for CNC machinists, welding certifications, and wire EDM training allowing for workforce advancement.

When I interviewed Janet Colvin, Manufacturing Pathways Campus Coordinator at the Advanced Manufacturing Center at CCD, she said that they had two one-week summer camps in 2016 for nine girls each week, but this year, they had 28 girls in a one-week camp. This format change allowed girls to participate in paid six-week post camp internships with local companies that are involved with the Denver Public School (DPS) CareerConnect program.

With regard to the selection process, Janet explained that the AMC staff worked with DPS staff Denver Public School to select girls who were interested in the engineering, manufacturing and “Maker” career pathways.

She described how each morning began with the students doing team building activities, campus tours, and other role playing exercises. The following is a summary of the week’s activities as Janet described them:

On Monday, the girls visited an architectural company, RNL Design, where two female architects spoke to the girls about careers in that field and gave them a tour of their design center. The girls completed an architectural drawing using SketchUp, origami building project, and participated in an architecture photo scavenger hunt in downtown Denver.

Tuesday was devoted to engineering, graphic and mechanical design at the CCD Mechanical Engineering Graphics lab. Each girl was able to design and 3D print her own fidget spinner using SolidWorks. Debra Wilcox, the owner of a local 3D printing store, also came to speak to the students.

The girls toured two Advanced Manufacturing companies on Wednesday. At Sundyne, they met mechanical engineers and saw a part being made on a 5-axis CNC machine. The tour also provided lessons in the importance of safety from a female member of the local chapter of the American Society for Safety Engineers. At Eldon James, a women-owned plastic injection molding company, they watched plastic parts being molded.  A member of the Colorado chapter of Women in Manufacturing (WIM) of which Janet is also a member, spoke to the girls about careers in manufacturing.

Thursday was spent at CCD’s Advanced Manufacturing Center doing manual machining using mills and lathes to drill a hole in a CNC-machined medallion. Stacey Bibik, president of Focused on Machining, spoke to the girls about careers. For welding, the girls used both simulators and actual welding equipment under faculty supervision. They had the opportunity to meet and interact with manufacturing college students at the AMC. In the afternoon, they toured a glass recycling company, Clear Intentions.

In the morning of the camp’s last day on Friday, the girls worked with faculty to finish their projects and learned how to create a plasma-cut DIY sign in welding. In the afternoon, there was a graduation ceremony in which the girls had the opportunity to share their experiences. Guests included family members, CCD staff, women from the manufacturing community, and the Denver Public School CareerConnect program.

“The camp was a success because more than 25 professional women who are employed in advanced manufacturing companies participated in CCD’s camp, and 16 Community College of Denver staff, students, and faculty in architecture, machining, fabrication welding and engineering graphics helped design projects, presented, and coached girls,” said Janet Colvin, who coordinated the camp. “I can’t say enough about the companies who participated. One of the key goals of the camp was to provide opportunities where girls could visualize themselves in manufacturing careers, and these business partners helped us achieve that goal.”

Janet stressed that one outcome of the camp was the change in the understanding of manufacturing skills and the potential future employment prospects in the Denver region.

The Project DIY team administered a test before and after the camp, which showed what the girls learned. Here are some of the results of the camp:

  • Pre/post test showed increased knowledge of manufacturing careers and educational pathways; 74% of the participants agreed that the camp increased their motivation to pursue a career in Advanced Manufacturing; 78% of the girls indicated that they could explain the basics of how to make metal parts with a machine, compared to 29% pretest.
  • 100% of the campers indicated that they learned new skills; 91% stated that the camp helped them learn more about their career interests; 100% recommended the camp to others.
  • Machining, welding, and the tours were listed among their favorite activities.
  • The post-test results showed that none of the girls thought Advanced Manufacturing was dirty work (compared to 39% in the pre-test).”
  • Two Project DIY attendees started paid internships in manufacturing with Denver Public Schools CareerConnect after the camp.

“As a result of the camp last summer, one girl changed schools to attend a school that taught welding,” said Janet. “Nine girls came back to complete the camp for the second time this summer. We follow up with all of the girls during the school year. We provide opportunities for the girls to participate in our large MFG DAY event and an international Maker Faire conference.”

CCD’s manufacturing programs offer the ability to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in fabrication welding, machining or engineering graphics, and mechanical design. The college also offers a variety of basic and advanced certificate programs that are stackable —meaning students can earn a certificate and start working right away while continuing on towards more advanced certificates or associate’s degrees in their field.

Janet explained how CCD grew their Advanced Manufacturing Center programs and how they were funded. “We opened the center on July 21, 2015 after receiving a $3.5 million grant from the Department of Labor. Nine community colleges received this grant, called CHAMP. The grant enabled us to set up the center, buy the equipment, and develop the curriculum with the help of the local manufacturing industry. It was a four-year grant, so we have another half year of funding. We are researching other opportunities for continued funding for the center. We are a corporate training center, so we offer training for a fee to local manufacturers.”  Janet said that if anyone wanted more information on ProjectDIY, they could contact her at janet.colvin@ccd.edu.

I shared with Janet that I have written numerous articles about solving the skills gap and attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers and am familiar with the Manufacturing Institute prediction that “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.” I told her that I certainly hope that CCD will be able to obtain follow up funding for the Advanced Manufacturing Center and be able to continue their summer camps. I believe these types of summer camps are vital for attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers.

I told her that I believe that the manufacturing industry is the foundation of our middle class, and that our country’s national security and prosperity depend in large part on a strong manufacturing industry. This is why I wrote my book, Can American Manufacturing be Saved?  Why We Should and How We Can, and am now working on a sequel titled Rebuild Manufacturing — the Key to American Prosperity, which I hope to have published by the fall.

 

Mira Costa College’s Technology Career Institute Fills Manufacturers’ Training Needs

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

For nearly twenty years, the only place to get the training through the community college system to become a machinist was San Diego City College. Now, however, there is a second location for civilians to get training as a machinist in San Diego County at the Technology Career Institute (TCI) of MiraCosta Community College. MiraCosta College is a public California community college serving coastal North San Diego County. The main campus is located in Oceanside, and there is a second campus in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

The reason I mention training for civilians is that from 1923 – 1993, the Navy had a machinist school at the Naval Training Center, San Diego. NTC ceased providing training at the end of 1993 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission of 1993. The machining training was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. There is still a machine shop at the North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado Island that offers training for entry-level Navy machinists to become journeymen. There is also the Workshops for Warriors, about which I have written previously, that has been training Veterans in machining and other manufacturing skills since 2011.

Last October, I visited the Technology Career Institute (TCI) during San Diego’s Manufacturing Week (associated with the national MFG Day on October 5th). I met Linda Kurokawa, Director of Community Education & Workforce Development, and finally had the opportunity to interview her in depth last week.

My first question was:  When did TCI start and whose idea was it? Linda said, “The Technology Career Institute officially opened in its current location in Carlsbad in March 2015, and it was actually my idea.” She explained, “I started it because I felt that San Diego North County needed a technical training center to provide low cost and accelerated training. We wanted to get young people and Veterans trained for good paying jobs. For about five years, I had been asked by local manufacturers and the local chapter of the National Tooling & Manufacturing Association (NTMA) to start a machinist program. But, I had no money, no instructors, and no equipment.

I decided to see if there was a way it could be done. I worked with the City of Oceanside and asked if they had an empty building. They did since it was during the long-lasting recession. I talked to leaders in the local industry to see if we could raise the funds to get the equipment. The MiraCosta Foundation helped us get donations to buy some of the equipment. One donor even gave $50,000. I worked with Haas Automation®, Inc., and we got some automated machining centers through an ‘Entrustment’ arrangement.”

Continuing, she said, “When we were in the planning stage for TCI, I was advised to make sure the course met the needs of the manufacturers, so we had manufacturers review our curriculum. We also visited training centers all over the country to learn about best practices. We started our machining program in the spring of 2013 at the Oceanside location. The program was very accelerated ? the students went every day, five days a week, for eight hours a day. The NTMA helped me find our first instructor, a woman who was retiring from the Navy and had taught machining skills on board ship to sailors.”

When I asked how they wound up at the current facility in Carlsbad, she responded, “I realized that with the small facility we had, we could only train a few students at a time. I heard about a grant available through the Department of Labor, and I hired a grant writer. We submitted our proposal and won a $2.75 million grant, which allowed us the funds to buy the equipment we needed to double the size of our machining program and also establish an engineering technician program.

We looked for a larger empty building and found one in the city of Carlsbad. We worked with city officials to get a low rent, as we are entirely funded by student fees. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Carlsbad is helping to fill the talent pipeline and helping residents in North County find technical training, and we provide the training in a low cost building.

We moved into our 23,000 sq. ft. building in early 2015 and had the time and space to start night and weekend classes using modules from our daytime accelerated program. We are GI bill approved and funded through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds and state funds, which are only available about five months of the year before the funds are exhausted. Our fees are high per student (about $6,000), so I wanted to find another grant. The Girard Foundation did help out by funding one semester last year.”

I told Linda that I had seen the press release about the MiraCosta College being one of the recipients of the more than $111 million America’s Promise grants that were awarded on November 17, 2016 by the U.S. Department of Labor “to 23 regional workforce partnerships in 28 states to connect more than 21,000 Americans to education and in-demand jobs.”

The press release stated, “Each four-year grant will support tuition-free education and training that prepares participants for jobs in industries that currently utilize the H-1B temporary visa program to meet industry workforce needs. Grantees will use individual assessments to determine the best strategies to successfully move participants into middle- to high-skilled jobs including accelerated training, longer-term intensive training and up skilling current employees to meet the demands of higher skilled jobs.

Grantees will focus their activities on four key priorities:

  • Increasing opportunities for all Americans through tuition-free training for middle-to high-skilled occupations and industries.
  • Expanding employer involvement in the design and delivery of education and training programs.
  • Utilizing evidence-based sector strategies to increase college completion, employability, employment earnings and outcomes of job seekers.
  • Leveraging additional public, private and foundation resources to scale and sustain proven strategies.

Funded through fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the U.S. under the H-1B temporary visa program, America’s Promise grants are intended to raise the technical skill levels of American workers and, over time, help businesses reduce their reliance on temporary visa programs.”

Linda said, “I wrote my own grant this time, and we were the only college in California to receive the grant of 6 million over a period of four years. We are six months into the grant, so we still have 3 1/2 years left. We are sharing some monies with Grossmont Cuyamaca College in east San Diego County and Chaffey College in Riverside. The grant funds have allowed us to eliminate tuition fees and reduce administrative fees down to a modest $375. However, the America’s Promise grant is not a long-term solution. ”

She explained, “Our local manufacturing industry is composed of such small companies that there isn’t enough extra money from these companies to be a sponsor for a machining school. However, we do get small donations of money and donations of metal materials used by the students, as well as donations of some equipment.”

I told her I understood because this is the type of company I represent as a manufacturers’ sales rep – companies that are typically under 25 employees, and I even represent two San Diego North County companies that have less than 15 employees. I mentioned that I had read the sector report on Advanced Manufacturing released in November 2015 by the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP). It stated that” 97 percent of all Advanced Manufacturing businesses are businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Small businesses in this sector also account for 36% of all employees and for a third of all generated annual revenue.”

When I asked what is coming up, she said, “We are excited about launching our apprenticeship program for Machining Technician, CNC machine operators, engineering technicians, electronic assembly, and solar PV in the next few months that have been approved by the State of California Apprenticeship Standards. We will do the pre-training at our facility and monitor the students On the Job Training. We will have an Advisory Board, and already have a couple of companies lined up for the apprenticeships. We are also partnering with Able-Disabled Advocacy for a small portion of their $3.2 million grant for apprenticeships from the Department of Labor that they were awarded in November 2015.

As we concluded our discussion, Linda commented, “One of the benefits of having a big training center is that we will be able to make changes amongst our local manufacturers. Our students are being directed to the companies where they will be able to have a decent paying job.  When companies come to us asking why they can’t get our graduates to go to work for them, we have to explain to them it is because they are not paying a living wage. We are helping them realize that they need to pay higher wages to get and keep better employees.”

I responded that I had heard that San Diego ranks in the top 10 (9th) of most expensive places to live according to Inc. magazine, so it is tough to make it when the wages in San Diego are so much lower than cities that are higher up on the list like New York, Boston, and San Francisco. That is why it is important to get the training and/or education needed to be able to get a higher paying job here, and why it is so important for companies to pay competitive wages. The SDWP report identified advanced manufacturing as one of the priority sectors for job growth, so the Technical Career Institute is an important addition to San Diego County’s training infrastructure.

 

Innovative Products Win Best Invention at San Diego Inventors Forum Contest

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Ten companies competed for the best consumer product of the year at the 9th annual invention contest of the San Diego Inventors Forum on August 11, 2016 held at Coleman University. The San Diego Inventors Forum (SDIF) meets every 2nd Thursday in Del Mar (just north of San Diego) and has been the nursery for hundreds of ideas of local San Diego inventors for over 10 years.

The San Diego Inventors Forum is a non-profit organization that provides a year-long education program at monthly meetings where keynote speakers cover the full spectrum of what inventors need to know to go from capturing a design concept to how to get their product to the market. I have been involved with SDIF for seven years, first as a member of the steering committee and mentor to inventors, and now as a director on the board after SDIF incorporated in 2014.

Our meetings cover topics such as harnessing creativity, patents, trademarks & copyrights, licensing, video and internet marketing for inventors, finding funding/investors, and planning and giving presentations. I give one of the presentations each year on “Manufacturing 101 – how to select the right processes and sources for your products.” All of our meeting presentations have been videotaped for the past three years and can be viewed on YouTube and are linked at the SDIF website:  www.sdinventors.org

The meetings also provide unique opportunities for inventors to connect with people and services they may need to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to bring their product to market and profitability.

At the end of each year, SDIF hosts a competition where ten inventors have the opportunity to present their product to an audience of 75 – 100 people. The number of votes by members of the audience determines which inventors receive the top prizes ? 1st prize is $1000, second is $500, and third wins $250.

President Adrian Pelkus said, “This was one of the most competitive contests we have ever had. Each of the products was so innovative, unique, and useful that it was tough to choose the best consumer product. There was only a five vote spread between the first place winner and the third place winner.”

The winner was Greg Wawrzyniak for his PaintWell Caddy. The two models attach easily to any kind of a belt and hold the brush and roller in place with embedded magnets when not being used. The small size holds a small roller and paintbrush for painting trim and the larger size holds a large roller and brush for painting walls. For further information, contact Greg at  enovex@gmail.com.

Second place went to Dean McBain for his Alive Iris Biometric security system solution that comprises a dual parallel authentication ID system that analyzes an individual’s iris independently. The system identifies the individual as well as verifying the “alive” status simultaneously. For further information, go to www.trueidsecurity.com.

Third place winner was Dan Garcia and Kirsten Hanson Garcia for their Sipsee – the only universal, sanitary, reusable, portable bottle plug. The Sipsee enables you to immediately be able to identify your bottle among a myriad of identical bottles at home, parties, sporting events, picnics, campsites, and other places. The plug has a cover that can be attached to a lanyard or key chain for handy use. For further information, contact Daniel.L.Garcia2014@gmail.com or go to their website www.mysipsee.com.

Other contestants were:

Marvin Rosenthal for his Enforcer dog leash ?  a innovative leash with three ergonomically designed handles to allow owners/handlers to choose how much control they have over their dog, especially designed for military or law enforcement applications. For further information, contact lawdog_leashco@yeahoo.com.

Van Dexter Duez for his Pieceptions – an easy to use baking device that allow you to create two pies in one for flavorful combinations, as pumpkin and pecan, cherry and chocolate silk, and spinach and Lorraine quiche. For further information, contact pieceptions@gmail.com.

Robson Spiane for his Pro RiseTM seat assist product that allows seniors, wounded veterans, and post-surgical individuals to rise from their seats independently without motors, pistons, or hydraulics.  It allows an individual to use their upper body to assist their legs in rising up or descending into a seated position. It is portable and can be secured too many types of seating. For further information, go to www.tryprorise.com.

Josh Rifkin for his Bit Viper ? a right angle hand tool that holds two interchangeable bits in one small easy to use tool. For further information, contact joshrifkin@gmail.com.

Mr. Tam Phuong Tran for his patented, new age eating utensil that makes grabbing and picking up food easier than traditional chopsticks. For further information, contact tamptran@yahoo.com

Alex Robertson for his Lumasoothe Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) device to provide an advanced, cost-effective, non-surgical home treatment  for pets that are suffering from various conditions, including arthritis, back pain, wounds, hair loss, skin discolorations, and more. For further information, contact Luma-Tech, LLC at www.LumaSoothe.com.

The San Diego Inventors Forum is one of 45 different accelerator or incubator programs in San Diego County, and San Diego is a hotbed of innovation. One of the more well-known accelerator programs is the CONNECT Springboard program that helps to create and scale great innovation companies through access to the resources that entrepreneurs and growing companies need most – People, Capital, & Technology. I joined the team of Connect mentors last year and had the pleasure of mentoring a company that came in second in the San Diego Inventors Forum invention contest last August – Bixpy for their lightweight water jet system that adds propulsion to water sports and can be used by kayakers, standup paddle boarders, divers and other water-sports enthusiasts. Houman Nikmanesh, founder and president of Bixpy, just graduated from the CONNECT Springboard program in July. SDIF has often been a “feeder” organization for entrepreneurs who want to found a company rather than license their technology.

The San Diego region has long been a hot bed of innovation. In fact, a report released in April by “the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows that the San Diego region comes in ninth for the number of technology patents granted with over 34,000 patents, among other metropolitan areas from 2000-2013.

The amount of technological intellectual property granted in the region has more than doubled in the last decade, with 4,805 patents awarded in San Diego County in 2013, up from 1,724 patents in 2000. The region had a total of 34,605 patents from 2000-2013.”

However, according to an article in the L. A. Times on July 13, 2013, “the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which ranks cities around the world by calculating ‘patent density,’ or the number of patents produced per a certain level of residents” ranked San Diego as the second most innovative city in the world. The OECD ranked Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands, as the most innovative city in the world that year.

“Eindhoven, for example, churned out 22.6 patents for every 10,000 residents, dramatically outpacing the 9 patents per 10,000 residents produced by San Diego. The top 10 list includes four American cities and 6 European ones. San Francisco follows San Diego at No. 3, while Boston clocks in at the seventh spot and Minneapolis at No. 9.”

The San Diego Inventors Forum is a member organization of United Inventors Association of America (UIAA), and our SDIF president, Adrian Pelkus, is on the board of directors. Mr. Pelkus also participated with other members of www.usinventor.org in testifying before a Congressional committee in Washington, D. C. in opposition to legislation that would have destroyed the patent system as we know it (H.R.9, The Innovation Act and S.1137, The Patent Act).

We welcome all inventors in southern California to attend our meetings, which are held at the conference facilities of AMN Healthcare in the Carmel Valley area of San Diego the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 PM. The availability of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding mechanisms is providing the opportunity for inventors to get their products into the marketplace faster than ever. It has been exciting to see the successful launching of new products of so many of our San Diego Inventors Forum members in the past two years.

 

Coalition for a Prosperous America’s California Chapter Celebrates the Outlook for the Future

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The California Chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) held their annual dinner in San Diego on January 11th at the Del Mar Hilton to look back on this year’s work and ahead to the coming year, as well as honor those who have helped make that work successful. Nearly 80 attendees joined me in showing our appreciation to Senator Mark Wyland for being the co-host of the well-attended “Manufacturing in the Golden State–Making California Thrive” economic summit last February. Unfortunately, co-host Assemblymember Toni Atkins was unable to be present. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and County Supervisor Dave Roberts attended along with staff representing Congresswoman Susan Davis, Congressman Darrell Issa, Assemblyman Brian Jones, and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez.

I shared how I became involved with CPA, which is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization established in 2007 as a coalition of manufacturing, farming, ranching, and labor to fix the U.S. trade deficit and the economy. CPA uniquely joins these distinct groups and focuses on both grass roots and Washington, D. C. lobbying efforts. CPA educates business, organization and political leaders about the economic harm caused by the trade deficit, methods to correct the deficit, and the need to develop and implement a national strategy to produce more in the U.S. so jobs and the taxes they create stay in the U. S.

When I was researching and writing the chapter “What is being done now to save American manufacturing?” for the first edition of my book in 2008, I found many trade and professional organizations that were focused on a particular issue important to their industry or profession, but there didn’t seem to be any collaboration between the organizations to support or oppose issues that affected American manufacturers. The two most powerful organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U. S. Chamber of Congress seemed to be controlled by the large multinational corporations whose position on various issues were at odds with those of smaller American-only manufacturing corporations.

After my book was published in 2009, I met Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work:  What should replace it and why, and he introduced me to CPA when he became their Sr. Economist in early 2011. I realized this was just the kind of organization I had been looking for and started participating in their member-at-large monthly conference calls to share what we were each doing to work on issues adversely affecting American manufacturing.

I volunteered to help CPA put on a Smart Trade Conference on March 28, 2012, and one of the people that attended was Donna Cleary, Field Rep for State Senator Mark Wyland. She asked CPA to facilitate putting on a manufacturing summit in the fall. Because of the national election, we postponed the summit to February 2013, which gave us more time to solicit partners and sponsors. Our partner list became the “who’s who” of organizations in San Diego, and the summit was very successful. In addition to being a bi-partisan event, what made it different was that we broke into small groups after the main presentations and conducted “pair wise” voting on issues to come up with the top two issues: California regulations and the need for a national manufacturing strategy.

We formed a Manufacturing Task Force and produced a report that we disseminated to all of the attendees and subsequently presented to our Congressional delegation. We also presented CPA position papers on the trade deficit, currency manipulation, County of Origin labeling, Border Adjustable Taxes, and “Fast Track” Authority for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (a trade and global governance agreement being negotiated by the U.S. with eleven Pacific Rim nations).

We sponsored a viewing of the film “Death by China” in September, which clearly shows that we are in a trade war with China that we are losing, and American companies aren’t competing against Chinese companies, but the Chinese government itself.

The next speaker was Mike Dolan, Legislative Representative for the Teamsters, who said, “If CPA didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.” His basic point was that, based on his long experience working on the Hill and in the field for Fair Trade (fighting expansion of the flawed and failed NAFTA/WTO model), we can win the current battles of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track if and only if we build and maintain a strong bipartisan mobilization. He called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.” He doesn’t see a path to victory next year on sensible trade policy without the Coalition for a Prosperous America and the constituencies it represents — small business, particularly in industries that are sensitive to trade fluctuations, family farmers and ranchers, working families and “trade patriot” activists including the Tea Party cadres.

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) was the next speaker. He said they joined the Coalition because their industry was being unfavorably impacted by current U. S. trade policies and unfair trade practices by our trading partners. He said, “The number of privately owned cattle and sheep ranches has been going down dramatically since 1994 when NAFTA went into effect and accelerated after China became part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000. The size of the beef and sheep herd has been decreasing every year, while imports of beef, lamb, and mutton have been increasing.” Shockingly, he revealed that fast food restaurants are not required to disclose the origins of their beef and even when restaurants say the beef is “U.S. Inspected,” it is as likely as not to be imported. Their industry especially needs the government to provide consumer package labeling to show where meat and livestock was born, raised and slaughtered and to reverse the current policy of lowering U.S. health and safety standards just to facilitate more imported meat.

CPA President Michael Stumo presentation was “A Prosperity Strategy for America,” in which he stated:  “We are convincing Congress that we need “net exports,” not merely more exports, to be a successful trading and producing nation. In 2011, our trade deficit shaved an astounding 4% from overall U. S. GDP. We should have a national goal to grow manufacturing back up to 20% of GDP rather than 11%.

Supply chains are the lifeblood of our economy, and all tiers of suppliers to the OEMs are important. They produce the jobs, the job multipliers, the wealth, the innovation, and the intellectual property of a successful developed economy. Those in Washington who are pushing “global supply chains” are really pushing offshoring of our supply chain. We need a strategy of acquiring, keeping, and growing “domestic supply chains” for a strong America.

We need to stop offshoring our manufacturing jobs and the taxes they create to safeguard our economic strength, our democracy and our constitutional republic. The globalization agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are only 15% about tariffs and quotas and 85% about non-trade topics. These other topics include financial regulation, taxes, food and product safety, product labeling, government procurement of domestic supplies, and other matters. These globalization deals transfer the authority of Congress and states over these domestic policy issues to unelected international tribunals of foreign trade lawyers.

The old way of manufacturing and labor working separately for their interests no longer works. These issues are a macro problem for our country and affect all Americans. That’s why manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and workers must work together.

It is working. A large part of Congress signed a letter opposing Fast Track trade authority because of sovereignty and economic issues. Leadership on important committees is talking about net exports rather gross exports. A majority of the House and Senate signed a letter calling for effective protections against foreign currency manipulation in future international agreements. We need to win. Vince Lombardi said ‘winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing.’ We can win these issues by expanding our membership of individuals, companies, and organizations and expanding from eight state chapters to at least 25 chapters.”

In the wrap-up presentation, Dave Frengel, Director of Government Relations, Penn United Technologies, a precision tool making company, said, “We have 600 employees today, but if our government had been standing up for us against China’s unfair trade practices, we would have 1200 employees, most in family-sustaining jobs with good benefits. Unfair trade affects the entire U.S. supply-chain, not just our company. Our government has been turning its back on production of food and manufactured goods. Our precision tooling and manufacturing industry, which is critical to America’s industrial economy, is a third of what it was before this era of bad U.S. trade policy began. The resulting loss of jobs is huge.”

He continued, “When I was asked by my boss to “fix trade” 11 years ago, we tried working within the National Association of Manufacturers, but our voice and that of other American-only manufactures was ignored. We realized that we needed to join not only with manufacturers and concerned citizens, but with farmers, ranchers and workers to win. We realized that the mission would not be accomplished through existing organizations – we needed a new organization to get the job done. That is why we were a founding member of CPA.

For nearly seven years now, CPA has been holding events all over the nation to raise awareness and mobilize local leaders around trade reform issues. CPA members and staff made over 200 legislative visits this past year. The credibility and influence of CPA is growing and our trade reform message is becoming more convincing as we continue to have crucial conversations with a growing circle of trade policy leaders in Washington, D. C.

We are opening new doors with trade negotiators inside the Obama Administration, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. Our efforts helped gain massive Congressional opposition to Fast Track trade authority and in support of our constitution. Our efforts helped gain a majority of Senate and House support for effective currency manipulation provisions in all future trade deals.

The Chinese will negotiate forever without changing their predatory trade strategies. We need protection from those who cheat us, which requires strong enforcement of international trade rules by our government. We can compete against foreign companies, but not against foreign governments that rig markets to cheat us out of our share of markets. The Coalition for a Prosperous America works for trade reform that delivers prosperity and security to America, its citizens, factories, farms, and working people. The solutions that CPA focuses on will benefit those who make and grow things here.”

In conclusion, he stated, “We are gaining more GOP support, more Democrat support, more Tea Party support, more citizen support, and more producer support. This year, we’re starting to win – because of the growth in size and influence of the Coalition for a Prosperous America. We need to get stronger. We need you to consider joining CPA as an individual or a company member or to make a tax deductible donation to the CPA Education Fund.”

Bad U. S. trade policy is a major cause of California’s economic crisis. Offshoring has cost California hundreds of thousands of its manufacturing jobs. Family members lost good jobs; communities declined; property values plummeted. We Californians know that we need a smarter U.S. trade strategy.

As a fledgling chapter, we are already influencing the trade policy positions of San Diego’s Congressional delegation, but need to grow to influence the other 48 Representatives and our two Senators to support better trade deals that will grow our economy. This is not a Republican issue nor a Democratic issue, but an American issue, and they must vote right to properly represent California. We need to get stronger and grow to accomplish our goals. We need your involvement and financial support to make a difference. Please contact me at michele@savingusmanufacturing.com to participate in the California Chapter.

Country of Origin Labeling is Critical to Buying American and Must be Improved

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

On January 15, 2013, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced that they will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next 10 years. “…by increasing what it already buys here – in categories like sporting goods, apparel basics, storage products, games, and paper products, and by helping to onshore U.S. production in high potential areas like textiles, furniture and higher-end appliances.”

The news release stated, “A popular misconception about Walmart is where the majority of the products on its shelves are sourced. According to data from its suppliers, items that are made here, sourced here, or grown here account for about two-thirds of what the company spends to buy products at Walmart U.S.”

Since 11 months has passed since Walmart’s announcement, I wanted to see if the company was living up the claims of their press release. So I visited two Walmart stores in San Diego to see if I could find products with “Made in USA” labels. I spent a couple of hours going through various departments. In the clothing departments for men, women, boys, girls, and babies, I only found one “Made in USA” label on a team logo shirt made by Intex in the sports team department. The majority of clothing in all departments had “Made in China” labels, but there were also labels for clothing made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, El Salvador, Honduras, Jordan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

When I browsed the small appliance and furniture departments, I found only “Made in China” products. I was especially disturbed to see only “Made in China” labels for everything in the baby department: car seats, cribs, infant seats, playpens, strollers, swings, etc.

Since Walmart pledged to buy more “Made in USA” textiles, I made a point to check the labels of all the products in the Bedding department. I found sheets made in China, India, and Pakistan, but all of the comforters, blankets, bedding sets, pillows, towels, bath rugs, and throw pillows were made in China. It was interesting to find two brands of foam mattress pads (Intex and Mainstay) made in America that were cheaper than the brands made in China.

I browsed the sporting goods department carefully and was pleased to find Exxel sleeping bags made in America. I wrote about this company in the second edition of my book as an example of a company that “reshored” manufacturing; that is, returned manufacturing to America from offshore. “In 2007, 60 percent of Exxel’s sleeping bags were made in Shanghai, while Haleyville [Alabama] produced the rest. By 2009, only a third came from China, and by 2010, Haleyville accounted for 90 percent. ‘Labor is China’s advantage and our weakest link,’ Kazazian said. ‘But they can’t compete with me on my just-in-time production cycle.’”

I did find one model of Coleman coolers (a blow-molded plastic model) “Made in USA,” but all other models were made in China. All of the weights, exercise balls, golf clubs, tents, air mattresses, and sports balls were made in China.

Regarding paper goods, you can find “Made in USA” cards in the gift card section, but they are outnumbered by a 3:1 ratio by “Made in China” cards.

I didn’t have time to check labels in the grocery department, but am sure that I would have found the same labeling information I am accustomed to seeing as I noticed that they carry the same brands that I regularly buy at my local grocery store.

The problem with food labeling is that Country of Origin (COOL) Labeling rules defined by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) leave some loopholes that mean consumers are not getting all the information they need to make informed buying decisions.

For example, seafood has been covered since 2005, and raw seafood requires a label, but if it is cooked or smoked, no label is required. Since 2009, beef, poultry, lamb, goat, some nuts (peanuts, pecans and macadamias), fresh and some frozen fruits and vegetables, and ginseng have to be labeled with their country of origin. However, this requirement applies to retailers (grocery stores), but is not required at restaurants or specialty markets (like fish markets, butcher shops or roadside stands).

The USDA rules for COOL exempt “processed” versions of the foods, and unfortunately, USDA defines the word “processed” in the broadest way they could, so that the maximum amount of food is exempted from labeling. The rules now exempt things that are:

  • cooked, roasted, smoked or cured
  • combined with one other ingredient

This means that all of the frozen meals that you warm up in your microwave have no Country of Origin labels for the ingredients of the meal. The packages just provide “Distributed by” information. The rule that adding one ingredient exempts products from labeling means that lots of frozen vegetables (think peas and carrots) and salad mixes don’t have to be labeled.

Most nuts sold in grocery stores are roasted, so they aren’t labeled. Meat that is cooked, roasted, smoked or cured doesn’t require COOL labeling, so a lot of product in the pork section of the meat case is exempt because it is smoked or cured.

An example of labels that are misleading is the “Product of Canada” labeling on Gorton’s gilled Tilapia packages. Since tilapia is a warm water fish, my husband recently inquired as to where their tilapia is raised. The email reply from Gorton’s Customer Service said:  “All of our tilapia is produced (finished and packaged) in facilities located in either the U.S. or in Canada. All of our coatings, glazes, breading, and flavors are produced in the US and Canada. Our tilapia is aquacultured (farm-raised) fish raised in freshwater ponds and lakes, primarily in China and Indonesia. All of our tilapia is from Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified facilities. Gorton’s goes beyond FDA standards to ensure that our tilapia is safe and of the highest quality. We work with only a few, carefully selected tilapia growers who share our dedication to producing only high quality, safe products. In addition, we inspect every lot of tilapia in our own raw material inspection and safety testing facility. Regardless of where our seafood is caught and processed, Gorton’s uses strict, rigorous quality control processes to ensure that we provide you with the safest, most wholesome and delicious seafood products on the market.” The good news about Gorton’s fish products is that the labeling on their grilled salmon states “Made with 100% wild-caught salmon.”

Another example of a misleading labeling is the new label on some of the Starkist tuna products as part of their recently launched its “Made in America” campaign to celebrate its 50th anniversary in American Samoa… The new American flagged themed labels are on 12-ounce cans of “chunk light” tuna processed in American Samoa – an American territory, so technically it’s made in America.

 

However, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report, “…more than three-quarters of cannery employees were foreign workers from neighboring Samoa, an independent country.” The workers are far paid less than the U.S. minimum because Congress passed legislation that delayed for Samoa the minimum wage increases that went into effect for the rest of the country. “The minimum wage in American Samoa’s canning industry is set at $4.76 per hour and will not increase until at least 2015.”

In addition, it’s nearly impossible to verify the issue of where the fish is caught and if the fish were caught by U.S. flagged vessels. An article in Undercurrent News states, “While it may seem important to know whether the majority of the fish is caught — in US waters or outside of them — it is not, as far as the US government is concerned. ‘ As long as a US-flagged vessel catches the fish, the US government considers it to be US fish, ´ said Peter Flournoy, a lawyer for commercial marine harvesters. He added, ‘This includes fish caught outside of US waters.’”

Besides ensuring food safety, one of the goals for knowing the Country of Origin for products is to promote the creation of jobs for Americans. The current loopholes for labeling of products such as Starkist’s chunk light tuna are certainly not contributing to achieving this goal.

I’m sure few Americans know that Starkist is now a U. S. subsidiary of the Korea-based tuna giant Dongwon Industries, which means that when American consumers buy Starkist tuna, they are buying a product of a Korean company selling fish caught in international waters, packaged in American Samoa by foreign workers making less than the minimum wage.

We need to make Country of Origin (COOL) Labeling mandatory for all processed food, including frozen meals, vegetables, as well as canned food such as tuna. We could start by requiring that all ingredients representing 25 percent or more of the product be identified by country of origin on the label, including where fish are being farm raised.

 

Why it is Important to Know Where Products are Manufactured

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

At a time when more consumers are paying attention to where products are made and expressing greater interest in buying “Made in USA” products even if they cost more, there are changes proposed that could impact consumers being able to make decisions on the products they buy.

The first reason we need to know where products are manufactured is to have a clear picture of whether the nearly six million manufacturing jobs we have lost since 2000 have been mainly the result of technologic advances and higher productivity in the U. S. or whether outsourcing to foreign countries like China has been the main cause.

For decades, there have been companies referred to as manufacturers that I called “virtual manufacturers.” in my book. These companies have no manufacturing capability in-house. Sometimes they don’t even have the personnel to design the product. The founders of the company may have a concept of the new product they wish to develop and market, but they don’t have the technical expertise to do the design and development themselves. They hire outside consultants to design and develop the product or subcontract the design, development, and prototyping to a company specializing in these services. At the extreme end, they subcontract out everything from start to finish, including engineering design, procurement of parts and materials, assembly, test, inspection, and shipping to the end customer. They may handle marketing and customer service themselves, but sometimes they even subcontract these functions to marketing and customer service firms. There was no real impact on U. S. manufacturing data as long as these U. S. companies outsourced their manufacturing to other domestic manufacturers.

However, in the past 20 years, these virtual manufacturers have increasingly outsourced most or all of their manufacturing offshore. This resulted in U. S. federal agencies involved in economic data labeling them as “factoryless goods producers” and classifying them as “wholesale traders,” if they didn’t do any domestic manufacturing themselves. Apple, Nike, and Cisco are some of the more well known “factoryless goods producers” because of having their manufacturing outsourced offshore.

Now, U.S. federal agencies involved in economic data want to change the way they classify companies that have outsourced their U.S. production to foreign manufacturing companies. They are proposing to reclassify these “wholesale traders” as “domestic manufacturers.” This means that their sales would be counted as U.S. production and their products that are made offshore and imported into the U. S. for sale would no longer be counted as imports.

As reported in the August 20th issue of Manufacturing & Technology News, the purpose of this change is supposedly “to determine how much products are been offshored and to pinpoint the number of American companies that are linked to manufacturing, even though they don’t make the products they design and sell.”

For the past decade, “U.S. statistical agencies found that the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) did not provide a clear definition of companies that outsourced their production overseas, but that still owned the design and controlled the production and sale of goods from that foreign production.” A Manufacturing Transformation Outsourcing Subcommittee was formed in 2008 by the Economic Classification Policy Committee “to define outsourcing and identify “characteristics of establishments that outsource manufacturing transformation activities.” The committee was made up of representatives from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“The committee decided that all factoryless goods producers should be classified in manufacturing, the specific industry classification based on the transformation production process used by the contractor”  and recommended that the classification changes be implemented in the 2017 North America Industry Classification System.

There is disagreement on whether this change would be beneficial as it would impact a dozen major government statistical series, such as industrial production, producer price indexes, and industrial productivity.

In my opinion this change would result in data that is misleading and wouldn’t be giving a true picture of American manufacturing. We would not be able to know how much is actually being produced in the United States if we count imports from offshore as if they are domestic production. This change could radically increase U.S. production statistics and reduce our import statistics making our trade balance artificially look better.

A better way to find the answer to this question has been provided by San Diego entrepreneur and businessman, Alan Uke in his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity. Mr. Uke writes, “Our future as a nation and as individuals is being threatened. Since our spending habits as consumers have contributed to this situation, we can change our spending habits to reverse it… in order for a change to happen, consumers must demand to be more honestly and completely informed about what they are buying and where their money goes. To this end, we are starting a consumer movement to bring this to the attention of Congress…The goal of this movement and of this book are to encourage people to change their buying habits toward purchasing things that help the U. S. economy and job situation.”

He points out that the current information provided on country of origin labels is “misleading, incomplete, inaccessible, or all of these…In order to support our economy and American industries, we must have easily accessible, clearly communicated, and truthful information about a product’s entire origins.”

Mr. Uke recommends that consumers be provided the country of origin information they need at the point of sale whether at a store or online and presents a proposal for the U. S. government to require detailed country-of-origin labels for all manufactured products similar to the nutritional information labels now required on packaged food products. He feels that it is important for consumers to “see the last place where the product was manufactured” and “to discern what portion of its components came from other places” by use of what he calls a “Transparent Label.” It would include the cost by country of origin by both percentage and trade ratio, as well as the location of the company’s headquarters. The percentage is the total cost of the product that is produced or transformed in a particular country. The trade ratio describes the amount of exports vs. imports for a country in relation to the United States. This label would enable consumers to make better decisions when they buy manufactured goods.

The second reason we need to know where products are manufactured is to protect ourselves from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products. The U. S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s website provides a monthly list of products that have been recalled, and month after month, more than 90% are made in China.

A label similar to Mr. Uke’s recommendation would help companies comply with the new product safety standard (ISO 10377) recently released by the International Standards Organization (ISO):  The “Consumer Product Safety — Guidelines for Suppliers” standard (ISO 10377). The summary written by Dr. Elizabeth Nielsen, Chair of ISO/PC 243, Consumer product safety and a Canadian government Scientist, Regulator and Policy Analyst, states, “Regardless of company structure and organization, ISO 10377 will affect all suppliers irrespective of their role in the supply chain and all types of products whatever the origin.”

“Products should be traceable and carry a unique identifier that is labelled, marked or tagged at the source. This also goes for raw materials, components and subassemblies. Suppliers should insist on properly identified products from vendors and be able to trace products back to their direct source and identify the next direct recipient of the product in the supply chain.”

This standard has a different purpose for labeling than Mr. Uke’s label:  to protect consumers from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products. “Products are safer when they carry documentation about the product, its design, its production and its management in the market…Suppliers should be able to recognize a product’s development through its documentation and trace its design, risk assessment, hazard analysis and testing decisions back to its conception.”

ISO 10377 is “aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as larger firms and offers risk assessment and management techniques for safer consumer products. This standard will allow retailers and OEMs to trace every part and component of a product through the supply chain to determine exactly where a defect or a counterfeit has occurred.” The standard is divided into four main sections outlining general principles that promote a product safety culture in a company, safety in design, safety in production and safety in the retail marketplace.

Either Mr. Uke’s “Transparent Label” or the label required by ISO 10377 would satisfy both reasons for wanting to know where products are manufactured. This type of label would provide protection for consumers from unsafe, defective, toxic, and counterfeit products and would help us to recognize the main cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States. We need to face up to the true cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs before we can get any consensus of what to do about it by means of our national policies. We need to oppose reclassifying “wholesale traders” as domestic manufacturers and support “country of origin” labeling by contacting our Congressional representatives.

 

 

 

 

How we could Create Jobs while Reducing the Trade Deficit and National Debt

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

There are numerous ideas and recommendations on how we could create jobs but most job creation programs proposed involve either increased government spending or reductions in income or employment taxes at a time of soaring budget deficits and decreased government revenue. Other recommendations would require legislation to change policies on taxation, regulation, or trade that may be difficult to accomplish. The recommendations in this article focus on what could be done the fastest and most economically to create the most jobs while reducing our trade deficit and national debt.

Manufacturing is the foundation of the U. S. economy and the engine of economic growth. It has a higher multiplier effect than service jobs. Each manufacturing job creates an average of three to four other supporting jobs. So, if we focus on creating manufacturing jobs, we would be able to reduce the trade deficit and national debt at the same time.

The combined effects of an increasing trade deficit with China and other countries, as well as American manufacturers choosing to “offshore” manufacturing, has resulted in the loss of 5.7 million manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. If we calculate the multiplier effect, we have actually lost upwards of 17 to 22 million jobs, meaning that we have fewer taxpayers and more consumers of tax revenue in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, and Medicaid.

In 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with China reached a new record of $315 billion. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the trade deficit with China cost 2.7 million U.S. jobs from 2001-2011. The Department of Commerce estimates that each $1 billion in trade deficit translates to about 13,000 lost jobs, so the $738 billion trade deficit in goods for 2012 cost upwards of 9,599,200 jobs.

What Congress Could Do

First, Congress should enact legislation that addresses China’s currency manipulation. Most economists believe that China’s currency is undervalued by 30-40% so their products may be cheaper than American products on that basis alone. To address China’s currency manipulation and provide a means for American companies to petition for countervailing duties, the Senate passed S. 1619 in 2011, but GOP leadership prevented the corresponding bill in the House, H. R. 639, from being brought up for a vote, even though it had bi-partisan support with 231 co-sponsors. On March 20, 2013, Sander Levin (D-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Mo Brooks (R-AL) introduced the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act in the House and a corresponding bill will be introduced in the Senate.

Second, Congress should strengthen and tighten procurement regulations to enforce “buying American” for all government agencies and not just the Department of Defense. All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first opportunity at procurement contracts. New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction. No federal, state, or local government dollars should be spent buying materials, equipment, supplies, and workers from China.

My other recommendations for creating jobs are based on improving the competitiveness of American companies by improving the business climate of the United States so that there is less incentive for American manufacturing companies to outsource manufacturing offshore or build plants in foreign countries. The following proposed legislation would also prevent corporations from avoiding paying corporate income taxes:

  • Reduce corporate taxes to 25 percent
  • Make capital gains tax of 15 percent permanent
  • Increase and make permanent the R&D tax credit
  • Eliminate the estate tax (also called the Death Tax)
  • Improve intellectual property rights protection and increase criminal prosecution
  • Prevent sale of strategic U.S.-owned companies to foreign-owned companies
  • Enact legislation to prevent corporations from avoiding the U.S. income tax by reincorporating in a foreign country

It is also critical that we not approve any new Free Trade Agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Partnership that are currently proposed. The U.S. has a trade deficit with every one of its trading partners from NAFTA forward, so Free Trade Agreements have hurt more than helped the U.S. economy.

What States and Regions Could Do

State and local government can work in partnership with economic development agencies, universities, trade associations, and non-profit organizations to facilitate the growth and success of startup manufacturing companies in a variety of means:

Improve the Business Climate – Each state should take an honest look at the business climate they provide businesses, but especially manufacturers since they provide more jobs than any other economic sector. The goal should be to facilitate the startup and success of manufacturers to create more jobs. I recommend the following actions:

  • Reduce corporate and individual taxes to as low a rate as possible
  • Increase R&D tax credit generosity and make the R&D tax credit permanent
  • Institute an investment tax credit on purchases of new capital equipment and software
  • Eliminate burdensome or onerous statutory and environmental regulations

Establish or Support Existing Business Incubation Programs, such as those provided by the members of the National Business Incubation Alliance. Business incubators provide a positive sharing-type environment for creative entrepreneurship, often offering counseling and peer review services, as well as shared office or laboratory facilities, and a generally strong bias toward growth and innovation.

Facilitate Returning Manufacturing to America – The Reshoring Initiative,  founded by Harry Moser in 2010, has a  mission to bring good, well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States by assisting companies to more accurately assess their total cost of offshoring, and shift collective thinking from “offshoring is cheaper” to “local reduces the total cost of ownership.” The top reasons for U. S. to reshore are:

  • Brings jobs back to the U.S.
  • Helps balance U.S., state and local budgets
  • Motivates recruits to enter the skilled manufacturing workforce
  • Strengthens the defense industrial base

According to Mr. Moser, the Initiative has documented case studies of companies reshoring showing that “about 220 to 250 organizations have brought manufacturing back to the U.S….with the heaviest migration from China. This represents about 50,000 jobs, which is 10% of job growth in manufacturing since January 2010.”

State and/or local government could facilitate “reshoring” for manufacturers in their region by conducting Reshoring Initiative conferences to teach participants the concept of Total Cost of Ownership, how to use Mr. Moser’s free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™, and help them connect with local suppliers.

Establish Enterprise Zones and/or Free Trade Zones: Enterprise Zones provide special advantages or benefits to companies in these zones, such as:

  • Hiring Credits – Firms can earn state tax credits for each qualified employee hired (California’s is $37,440)
  • Up to 100% Net Operating Loss (NOL) carry-forward for up to 15 years under most circumstances.
  • Sales tax credits on purchases of up to $20 million per year of qualified machinery and machinery parts;
  • Up-front expensing of certain depreciable property
  • Apply unused tax credits to future tax years
  • Companies can earn preference points on state contracts.

States located on international borders could also establish Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs), which are sites in or near a U.S. Customs port of entry where foreign and domestic goods are considered to be in international trade. Goods can be brought into the zones without formal Customs entry or without incurring Customs duties/excise taxes until they are imported into the U. S. FTZs are intended to promote U.S. participation in trade and commerce by eliminating or reducing the unintended costs associated with U.S. trade laws

What Individuals Could Do

There are many things we could do as individuals to create jobs and reduce our trade deficits and national debt. You may feel that there is nothing you can do as an individual, but it’s not true! American activist and author, Sonia Johnson said, “We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”

If you are an inventor ready to get a patent or license agreement for your product, select American companies to make parts and assemblies for your product as much as possible. There are some electronic components that are no longer made in the U. S., so it may not be possible to source all of the component parts with American companies. There are many hidden costs to doing business offshore, so in the long run, you may not save as much money as you expect by sourcing your product offshore. The cost savings is not worth the danger of having your Intellectual Property stolen by a foreign company that will use it to make a copycat or counterfeit product sold at a lower price.

If you are an entrepreneur starting a company, find a niche product for which customers will be willing to pay more for a “Made in USA” product. Plan to sell your product on the basis of its “distinct competitive advantage” rather than on the basis of lowest price. Select your suppliers from American companies as this will create jobs for other Americans.

If you are the owner of an existing manufacturing company, then conduct a Total Cost of Ownership analysis for your bill of materials to see if you could “reshore” some or all of the items to be made in the United States. You can use the free TCO worksheet estimator to conduct your analysis available from the Reshoring Initiative at www.reshorenow.org. Also, you could choose to keep R&D in the United States or bring it back to the United States if you have sourced it offshore.

If enough manufacturing is “reshored” from China, we would drastically reduce our over $700 billion trade deficit in goods. We could create as many as three million manufacturing jobs, which would, in turn, create 9 – 12 million total jobs, bringing our unemployment down to 4 percent.

You may not realize it, but you have tremendous power as a consumer. Even large corporations pay attention to trends in consumer buying, and there is beginning to be a trend to buy ‘Made in USA” products. As a result, on January 15, 2013, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced they will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next 10 years.

U.S. voters supported Buy America policies by a 12-to-1 margin according to a survey of 1,200 likely general election voters conducted between June 28 and July 2, 2012 by the Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research. The overwhelming support has grown since prior iterations of the same poll – Buy America received an 11-to-1 margin of support in 2011 and a 5-to-1 margin in 2010. A survey by Perception Services International of 1400 consumers in July 2012, found that 76% were more likely to buy a U.S. product and 57% were less likely to buy a Chinese product.

As a consumer, you should pay attention to the country of origin labels when they shop and buy “Made in USA” products whenever possible. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and ask the store owner or manager to carry more “Made in USA” products. If you buy products online, there are now a plethora of online sources dedicated to selling only “Made in USA” products. Each time you choose to buy an American-made product, you help save or create an American job.

In his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity, Alan Uke, recommends Country of Origin labeling for all manufactured products that “puts control in the hands of American consumers to make powerful buying choices to boost our economy and create jobs,” as well as reduce our trade deficit. The labels would be similar to the labels on autos, listing the percent of content by country of all of the major components of the product. This Country of Origin labeling would enable American consumers to make the decision to buy products that have most of their content “made in USA.”

If every American would make the decision to buy American products and avoid imports as much as possible, we could make a real difference in our nation’s economy. For example, if 200 million Americans bought $20 worth of American products instead of Chinese, it would reduce our trade imbalance with China by four billion dollars. During the ABC World News series called “Made in America,” Diane Sawyer has repeatedly said, “If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U. S.-made goods, it would create almost 10,000 new jobs in this country.”

In conclusion, if we want to create more jobs, reduce our trade deficit and national debt, we must support our manufacturing industry so that it could once again be the economic engine for economic growth. Following the suggestions in this article could make the “Great American Job Engine” roar once again.

“Lame Duck” Congress Should Pass These Two Important Bills

Monday, November 12th, 2012

While the focus of the “Lame Duck” Congress will be to keep us from falling off the cliff of financial ruin from reaching the debt ceiling and sequestration, there are two bills passed by one body of Congress but not the other that should be passed. Both of these bills would be beneficial to America’s manufacturing industry.

The first bill addresses a topic many Americans supported during the latter part of Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign for president ?  he “took a hard line in his campaign, promising to cite China for its currency peg on day one of his presidency. National polling makes clear that the American people overwhelmingly support such action on China’s brazen violations of world trade law, including its currency undervaluation.”

The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011 (S. 1619) is an international trade bill that would establish US duties on imports from countries with undervalued currencies. The bill was approved by the Senate on October 11, 2011 by a vote of 63-35, but H.R.639, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, has not been brought up for a vote yet in the House of Representatives even though it has strong bipartisan, majority support with 234 lawmakers, including 65 Republicans, as cosponsors. U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI and ranking member on Ways and Means, introduced the legislation. The bill remains in the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has continued to block a vote on the bill despite overwhelming support. Speaker Boehner has said in statements that the United States should not dictate currency policy for another country and that he will oppose attempts to bring this bill to the floor for vote. It is clear that Speaker Boehner is single-handedly thwarting the majority will of both Congress and the American people. It is hard to understand why Boehner would stand in the way of such modest legislation to address China’s mercantilism.

On the Senate website, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said, “China’s currency manipulation has already cost 3 million American jobs–2 million of which came from our manufacturing sector. The bill that passed [Oct. 11] could create 1.6 million American jobs.”

In 2010, the House passed a similar bill, H.R.2378, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, by a strong, bipartisan vote of 348-79, including 99 Republicans, but the Senate failed to pass their version of the bill.

The problem of Chinese currency manipulation has actually gotten worse in the past year since the Senate bill passed. The New York Times’ Keith Bradsher “reports that Beijing has actually depreciated its currency more of late.  The Yuan fell nearly 1 percent against the dollar last month, and Bradsher says this is the “largest drop since Beijing officials unpegged the currency from the dollar in July 2005. The fact that Beijing can adjust its currency so precisely is proof yet again that it deliberately manipulates the Yuan to gain an export advantage.”

We cannot continue to run up a massive trade deficit with China. The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services increased from $500 billion in 2010 to $558 billion in 2011, an increase of $58 billion (11.6 percent). The massive sales of Chinese exports to the U.S. is fueled by China’s deliberately undervalued currency. By pegging its currency to the dollar at an artificially low rate, Beijing is making sure that its exports are exceedingly cheap in the U.S. Conversely, U.S. exports are more expensive due to this preferential currency rate.

How would this bill help? The bill calls for the Treasury Department to identify countries whose currencies are undervalued, and then instruct the Commerce Department to impose duties on imports from those aforementioned countries. Key points of the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011 include:

* Improves the oversight of the currency exchange rate by the Treasury.

* Clarifies the countervailing duty law to address currency under-evaluation.

* States that Commerce may not refuse to investigate a subsidy allegation. This clarification is supported by the WTO’s Appellate Body and is a key element in the previous Brown-Snowe currency bill and in HR 2378, which passed in September 2010.

* Triggers a series of consequences, including:  Immediate: “consider designation of a country’s currency as a ‘priority’ currency when determining whether to grant the country ‘market economy’ status for purpose of U.S. antidumping law.”

After 90 days: “forbid federal procurement of goods and services from the designated country unless that country is a member of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement,” and “forbid Overseas Private Investment Corporation financing or insurance for projects in the designated country.”

After 360 days and failure to adopt appropriate policies: “The administration must require the U.S. Trade Representative to request dispute settlement consultations in the World Trade

Organization with the government responsible for the currency,” and “require the Department of Treasury to consult with the Federal Reserve Board and other central banks to consider remedial intervention in currency markets.”

The bill also stipulates that “countries that fail to fix their currencies would be subject to higher anti-dumping duties and other penalties, such as a procurement ban, not receiving financing from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and U.S. opposition to multilateral bank financing for the targeted countries.”

Passage of this bill would be an obvious step forward to provide a level playing field for America’s manufacturers and their workers.

The other important bill, “The American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act” (HR-5865), co-sponsored by Illinois Reps. Dan Lipinski (D) and Adam Kinzinger (R), passed the House on September 12, 2012 by a vote of 339-77.

“H.R. 5865 establishes the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Board within the Department of Commerce to advise the President on issues affecting manufacturing in the United States. The board would be required to perform a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s manufacturing sector and, using results from the analysis, develop a strategy to improve the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing efforts. Results from the analysis and strategy would be available to the President to comply with the bill’s requirement to publish a strategy in 2014 and again in 2018 to promote growth in the nation’s manufacturing sector.”

The board would consist of 15 members: five from the public sector appointed by the President, including two governors from different parties; and 10 people from the private sector appointed by the House and the Senate, with the Majority appointing three and the Minority appointing two from each chamber.

In preparing the analysis, the board would be required to study, among other things:

  • The current environment for manufacturing, including government policies—at the international, federal, state, tribal, and local levels—that affect the sector;
  • Forecasts, both short- and long-term, for domestic and international trends in manufacturing;
  • Actions by federal agencies that affect manufacturing; and
  • Factors that affect the growth and stability of the sector such as workforce skills;
  • Trade, energy, and monetary policies; research and development; and protections for intellectual property.

Using results from the analysis, the board would be required to develop a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the nation’s manufacturing sector. The bill would require the strategy to include recommendations to eliminate or consolidate government programs, improve interaction between the government and the manufacturing sector, and amend any regulations that put the industry at a competitive disadvantage in international markets.

The final report also would be required to include a plan to implement the strategy, including an estimate of the cost to implement it as well as recommendations for ways to cover those costs.

In April 2011, The Information Technology& Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report, “The Case for a National Manufacturing Strategy,” that made a strong case for such a strategy. Authors Stephen Ezell and Robert Atkinson present information on five key reasons why manufacturing is important to the U.S. economy:

1.      It will be extremely difficult for the United States to balance its trade account without a healthy manufacturing sector.

2.      Manufacturing is a key driver of overall job growth and an important source of middle-class jobs for individuals at many skill levels.

3.      Manufacturing is vital to U.S. national security.

4.      Manufacturing is the principal source of R&D and innovation activity.

5.      The manufacturing and services sectors are inseparable and complementary.

The authors also present three primary reasons on why the United States needs a manufacturing strategy:

1.      Other countries have strategies to support their manufacturers and by lacking similar strategies we are therefore forcing our manufacturers to compete at a disadvantage.

2.      Systemic market failures mean that absent manufacturing policies, U.S. manufacturing will underperform in terms of innovation, productivity, job growth, and trade performance.

3.      If a country loses complex, high-value-added manufacturing sectors, it is unlikely to get them back, even if the dollar were to decline dramatically.

While not perfect, this bill would be a good start in developing a national manufacturing strategy. Contact your senator or representative to urge them to vote on these bills.

 

What’s Really Happening to America’s Solar Industry?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

There’s been a lot of negative press about the American solar industry in the past few months because six companies went bankrupt in 2011, even after receiving government loans.   At least 12 U.S. manufacturers have suffered layoffs, plant shutdowns or bankruptcies over the past two years.  Solyndra and Evergreen Solar are the most well-known because of media coverage about their government loans, but Beacon Power Corp, Mountain Plaza, Stirling Energy Systems, and Spectrawatt Inc. also went out of business, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.  What’s behind the financial trouble that many of these American solar companies have experienced?

“Dumping” of solar cells and modules produced in China is the real culprit for the financial woes of the American solar industry.  According to a report released by George Washington University in December 2011, China’s production of solar photovoltaic cells and modules has grown from 1 gigawatt (GW) to 20 GW in three years, and its industry now accounts for more than 50 percent of the global market.  During the same period, prices for solar modules decreased to $1.40 per watt and may go down as low as $1 per watt.  It is clear that over capacity in both purified silicon feedstock and module manufacturing have played a key role in the recent major price declines.  The annual market for solar more than doubled between 2009 and 2010.  For 2011, estimates of total market range from 21 to 24, which is a 44 percent increase from the year prior.

On October 19, 2011, SolarWorld, the largest U.S. producer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic products, filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions at the International Trade Commission (ITC) of the Department of Commerce.  The petition alleges that China is unfairly subsidizing its solar manufacturing industry with cash grants, multi-billion dollar preferential loans, raw material discounts, tax incentives, and currency manipulation.  SolarWorld seeks to establish that Chinese companies could not possibly have production costs low enough to be selling modules and cells at their current prices in the U.S.

SolarWorld’s petitions were supported by six other members of the newly formed Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, started by a group of seven U.S. solar manufacturers that has grown to 150 companies representing employing more than 14,650 workers.  However, SolarWorld was the only U.S. manufacturer identified publicly in these petitions because the “unnamed companies are said to fear retaliation from essential Chinese suppliers and customers and, if they have facilities in China, the Chinese government.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Commerce responded to these petitions as being overly protectionist and a threat to global economic recovery. China’s Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel maker, with manufacturing facilities in Goodyear, Arizona, stated that “a misguided solar trade conflict against China…could threaten the livelihood of the global solar ecosystem, particularly solar jobs in the U.S.”

U. S. opponents of the petition have formed the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) recruiting 132 solar companies as members representing 13,134 jobs.  Kevin Lapidus, Sr. V. P<> of legal and government affairs for SunEdison, a lead member of CASE, said “Today the solar industry is 100,00 employees of which 57 percent are in the installation business, 21 percent are in sales and distribution, and only 14 percent are in manufacturing.”  These companies benefit from the cheap Chinese products they sell, distribute, and install.

The petitions request that the ITC investigate imports of Chinese crystalline solar cell and modules but exclude thin-film products and solar technology that is not photovoltaic, such as solar thermal products.

The petitions seek relief for the U.S. domestic companies injured by Chinese imports and seek duties to offset Chinese dumping alleged to exceed 100 percent.  “The countervailing duty petition alleges that China illegally subsidizes its solar industry by providing cash grants; discounted polysilicon and aluminum necessary for production of solar panels; heavily discounted land, power and water; multi-billion dollar preferential loans and directed credit; tax exemptions, incentives and rebates; and export grants and insurance. The countervailing duty petition also alleges that China’s currency undervaluation is an illegal subsidy.”

The next step is for the ITC to decide whether the petitions are legally and factually sufficient and are adequately supported by the U.S. industry.  During such investigations, the Commission gathers information from the U.S. industry and the ITC gathers information from the foreign government and industry.

On December 2, 2011, the ITC issued a unanimous preliminary determination that Chinese trade practices are harming the U.S. domestic solar manufacturing industry.  The next step in the trade case will be Commerce’s preliminary determination on whether to levy countervailing import duties to offset the effects of any illegal Chinese subsidies.  The finding of “critical circumstances” means that if the agency imposes preliminary countervailing duties on March 2, the duties will apply to all imports of cells and modules from Chinese exporters that were brought into the United States starting Dec. 3, 2011.

This critical-circumstances ruling marks the first time that Commerce has issued such a finding in advance of a preliminary countervailing duty determination.  Aside from the determination on countervailing duties, the agency is scheduled to issue a separate preliminary ruling on anti-dumping duties on March 27.  Commerce will issue a separate critical-circumstances ruling in the anti-dumping investigation. A final decision from the U. S. ITC can take up to a year.

On February 7, 2012, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory posted a revised research presentation on the NREL website, which CASM praised.  The presentation concludes Chinese production of crystalline silicon solar technology for the U.S. market costs more than U.S. production for the domestic market, when the costs of shipping are included.

CASM contends the findings validate its position that the Chinese solar-manufacturing industry doesn’t enjoy a cost advantage in solar production costs but, rather, benefits from a government-underwritten export campaign designed to injure competition from U.S. manufacturers.

The NREL presentation, “Solar PV Manufacturing Cost Analysis: U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Industry,” concludes that Chinese producers have an inherent cost advantage of no greater than one percent, compared with U.S. producers.  However, when trans-ocean shipping costs are counted, Chinese producers face a 5 percent cost disadvantage, according to the analysis…Massive government subsidies the government says, sponsor the Chinese industrial drive to export about 95 percent of domestic production, a campaign that has already seized 55 percent of global market share.”

“This analysis from the renewable-energy research arm of the U.S. government corroborates our view that an export drive sponsored by the Chinese government is improperly intervening in the U.S. market,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., based in Oregon.  “Highly efficient U.S. producers like SolarWorld can vie with any company in the world in legal competition.  But the government of China’s illegal trade practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable for anyone.  Free trade is trade free of illegal foreign government intervention.”

“We are countering the illegal trade practices of China and its state-sponsored industry only as a first step to reviving renewable-energy competition, manufacturing and jobs and augmenting national energy security and world environmental stewardship,” Brinser said. “All of the advantages of solar should be available to the United States and to the competitive U.S. industry that pioneered this technology.”

Chinese silicon solar PV producers more than doubled their exports of crystalline silicon solar cells and modules in advance of potential U.S. government duties on those imports, according to an evaluation of PIERS’ reports, which are based on US Customs and Border Protection Automated Manifest System data.

“This significant increase in imports demonstrates that the Chinese know they have violated U.S. and international trade rules and are trying to evade the consequences,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., based in Oregon.  “Year to date, Chinese imports of solar cells and modules in 2011 are up 346 percent by quantity and 138 percent by value. Since 2008, Chinese imports have risen 939 percent by value and 1664 percent by quantity.  This most recent surge of Chinese solar imports gives the U.S. Department of Commerce the evidence it needs not only to make a preliminary determination in our favor, but also to apply a critical-circumstances finding to address this last-minute import surge.”

“The Chinese have made it clear that, contrary to various World Trade Organization agreements they signed 10 years ago, they will employ any means necessary to dominate the American and international solar markets,” Brinser said.  “Rather than reward the Chinese for cheating, Commerce and the International Trade Commission need to take every possible action to enable American manufacturers to compete fairly.”

Most of the solar technology was developed in the U. S., but the Chinese government decided the industry was something it wanted to dominate and provided the financing necessary to its manufacturers to build the capacity to do so enabling China to take a dominant market position. Chinese companies such as LDK Solar, JA Solar, Suntech, and Trina Solar obtained billions of dollars in financing from the China Development Bank in the last five years.

In contrast, the U.S. solar industry has had to rely on a tax credit to fund its expansion until federal stimulus money gave a jolt to the industry.  This funding was given to solar and wind project installers, not manufacturers. Investor advisor, Travis Hoium wrote, “Since it was a tax credit, it often required a tax equity investor, often a foreign company, to fund the project. The subsidy was there, but instead of being direct, it was convoluted and too complex to be as effective as China’s subsidies in building an industry.”

He added, “The stimulus money helped in some ways. The 1603 Treasure Program turned the tax credit into a cash grant for 30% of a renewable energy installation’s cost, helping attract more investors. But more direct funding blew up in the government’s face.  The Solyndra debacle showed that loan guarantees don’t guarantee success and that the government probably isn’t the best at picking industry winners.  The outrage after the company’s collapse could be heard around the country.”

This shows the contrast in the ways that China and the U.S. have subsidized their solar industries.  As a capitalistic economy, the U. S. doesn’t want direct government meddling in business.  On the other hand, China will subsidize businesses to create jobs and help them maintain their position as the world’s #1 exporter.

Filing a trade case is the last resort for an industry harmed by China’s “dumping,” government subsidies, and currency manipulation.  Other industries that have been forced to file similar cases are steel, semiconductors, textiles, furniture, and tires.  This latest case is part of a long trend of industries on the verge of being wiped out by China’s predatory mercantilism.  Our elected leaders seem to be afraid to do anything because it would start a trade war.  When are our leaders going to realize that we are already in a trade war, and China is winning?  If China can defeat us in an economic war and destroy the economy of the United States, they won’t have to fight us in a military war.  It’s time for our elected to have the courage to stand up to China and address China’s “dumping” and currency manipulation.  We Americans need to demand action!